Rebuild by Design: a series of design debates on resilience moderated by Henk Ovink

19 February 2014 — 19 March 2014
19 E E 31st St, New York, NY, United States New York City
#architecture #design

In an effort to promote resilience for the Sandy-affected region, U.S. Housing and Urban Development(HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, has launched a multi-stage regional design competition named Rebuild by Design. This competition is lead by Senior Advisor to Secretary Donovan, Henk Ovink (Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment in the Netherlands). Ovink is moderating a series of lectures entitled “Design and Politics: Competing for Resilience” hosted by Syracuse University School of Architecture at the Syracuse University Fisher Center in New York.

Upcoming lectures:

Wednesday March 5, 2014, 6-8:30pm “On talent”

Understanding and responding to the challenges of resilience necessitates collaboration not just between team members, but with community organizations, civic bodies, experts, and stakeholders at every scale throughout each stage of a design process. However, collaboration often yields a mediocre product that is more of a collage of compromises than it is a hybrid solution. Therefore, Rebuild by Design offer a new model by searching for a different type of talent, not simply the best architect or best ecologist, but the best collaborative thinkers. Such talent has been tasked with agility and intellectual porosity, constantly listening to others concerns and ideas, and constantly evolving their own. How can leading an assembly of agile thinkers through such a comprehensive model of collaboration fundamentally change the way in which they think and work? Does this significantly change the design results? How does one now understand where challenges and opportunity exist? How does talent work together to forge new territories, both in terms of subject and method? To what extent has this process become a lab for trans-disciplinary practices, for recalibrating the roles in which resilience professionals operate? 

Invited Panelists and Respondents to this session include Ben van Berkel, Bjarke Ingels, Michael Kimmelman, James Corner, Kate Orff, Georgeen Theodore, Mary Rowe, David van der Leer, Dilip da Cuhna, Nina-Marie Lister, Michael Speaks and Julia Czerniak.

Seating is limited, please RSVP before March 5 at

Wednesday March 19, 2014, 6-8:30pm “On funding”

RBD blends philanthropic and government funding to support the development and implementation of ten projects, with each source treated as yet another layer of innovation. In engaging the philanthropic sector to fund the research and design process, RBD has also incorporated these organizations and their vast network of information and support in the process itself. As advocates for a collective goal, they have become participants in the larger conversation that Rebuild by Design attempts to generate, that is, the campaign on building regional resilience by design.
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG‐DR) are the primary federal dollars that will fund the implementation of RBD proposals. To Grantees (governments) are typically asked to develop an action plan for these funds only after they are allocated. RBD informally changes this procedure by developing innovative proposals, and thus resilience input, for action plans before funding is given. Federal dollars thus become not simply a mechanism of implementation, but another catalyst for innovation. This is dovetailed by team efforts to secure their own funding for additional research and design development, fueling the extension of their outreach and the scope of their research. What does funding mean in the face of risk? Why should teams invest in such a demanding process? How do you align funding streams to garner multiple benefits (the infrastructural with the civic, for example)? How can implementation funds structurally embrace this larger phase of research by design for better implementation, a new standard of resilience and real innovation?

Invited Panelists and Respondents to this session include David Burney, Marilyn Jordan Taylor,Gary Hattem, Jamie Springer, Michael Berkowitz, Scott Davis, Nancy Kete, Thomas Wright, Shalini Vajjhala, Denise Hoffman-Brandt and Marc Norman. 

Previous lecture:

Wednesday February 19, 2014, 6-8:30pm “On Process”

If the goal of a process is to drive a new level of resilience across a region, then the boundaries in which resilience efforts are typically conceived and implemented need to be restructured. Design is the mode of response put forth by RBD. The standard model for federal design competitions is to define an existing problem and solicit solutions from the best in the field. Yet, as highlighted by Sandy, the challenges of resilience defy political and disciplinary boundaries. The specific problems of the region cannot be determined let alone be solved until they are understood in all of their intermingling dimensions. Thus, RBD rethinks the competition model itself by engaging the best collaborative thinkers in a process of research and design, first discerning the challenges of resilience in their properly interdisciplinary and regional dimensions and then producing equally comprehensive design solutions. Even if this incubates the innovation necessary for a new level of resilience, it risks producing proposals incompatible with existing regulations and funding mechanisms. The RBD process aims to rethink those boundaries as well. This is achieved by interfacing with municipal, state, and federal leaders at every stage—building new political collations in tandem with each design proposal. How do you drive new standards and design innovation at a regional scale based in public and private partnerships? How do you remain agile as the designer of a new process, recalibrating as it evolves? What does it mean to participate in this process, to make decisions from the results of this process? In the midst of political change, how do you fund and implement good design? How effective are design competitions as the venue of resilience innovation? 

Invited Panelists and Respondents to this session include Nancy Kete, Shaun Donovan, Dan Zarrilli, Brian McGrath, Claire Weisz, Alan Berger, Scott Davis, Rob Pirani, Alexander d’Hooghe, Ron Shiffman, Charles Waldheim, Michael Speaks and Julia Czerniak.


Henk Ovink

Henk Ovink is Senior Advisor to HUD Secretary, Shaun Donovan, and Chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. He works on the Task Force’s legacy process, the regional resilience science center, regional infrastructure coordination and on the overall Task Force strategy. He is responsible for the long-term planning strategy, the regional design competition “REBUILD BY DESIGN’ and the connected planning conference. Before joining the Task Force, Ovink was both Director General Spatial Planning and Water affairs and Director National Spatial Planning for the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment in the Netherlands.